At some point in my life I told myself that I was not beautiful. I thought it, accepted it, and lived with this self-declared statement for decades. I had made the assumption that real beauty, TRUE beauty, was defined as shorter, thinner, less pale, less splotchy, more everything I wasn’t and less everything that I was.
As a very tall woman there is something physical that happens when you tell yourself that you are not beautiful – you shrink. Or rather, you MAKE yourself shrink. For as long as I can remember being six feet tall I have tried to find a way to take up less space. If I cave into my shoulders just a bit or keep my head low…
My view of beauty changed on April 6th, 2009. I was holding my new to the world son and gazing at all of his most perfect and lovely features. Friends that had come to visit me in the hospital gushed, “HE LOOKS JUST LIKE YOU!!”
Hearing those words completely shattered the distorted box that I had placed myself in: the ugly box. My son was beyond beautiful. And yes, he looked like me. If I continued to believe that I was hideous then I was, in a way, placing that same burden on my son.
Sorry kid, Mama is ugly and folks say you look like me.
Slowly, quietly, I began to heal my beauty. I learned that what was ugly was my responding to a comment with, “You need glasses!” instead of just soaking it in. Beauty, I learned, wasn’t always about how I looked. It was also the care that I gave to others.
My son is now three and every bit as beautiful as the day I met him. His vocabulary triples every hour and when he is not asking, “What does that mean, Mama?” he is trying out declarations.
“This grape is delicious!”
“We are very disappointed today!”
And, daily, “This is very beautiful”.
He says that about so many things. The artful way that I have attempted to present his supper, the way his bed looks after we have changed the linens, flowers, tomatoes at the market… all beautiful to him.
His awareness of words and the world has stopped me from saying things like, “I am so fat!” or “I look so gross!” Yes, I used to say those things to myself all the time, out loud, even, to the mirror. If I ever heard my son say such things about himself or another person I would be devastated.
He watches his grandmother get ready for work every morning. He runs his tiny fingers over her makeup brushes and hands her a lipstick when she asks for one. He admires painted nails, and on several occasions has asked to have his own nails decorated with paint. He is a connoisseur of beauty.
I am far from telling you that I am beautiful. I may be beyond hope with the mental damage that I did to myself. But I cannot deny that the way my son lives and sees his life has healed me. Over the cracks of my self-esteem are bandages of optimism and pride. As my son watches me get ready for an event I can smile and thank him when he declares me beautiful.
I am curious how many of you have had healed self-esteem after having a child. Or if you aren’t a parent, is there a child in your life that changed the way you see yourself?
This post is part of BlogHer’s My Beautiful Moment editorial series, made possible by Olay.